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Home / Expert Opinion / GRAWA President’s Message: Seasons change and so do we

GRAWA President’s Message: Seasons change and so do we


Katie Courtney

As the weather is starting to change, think about how you want to be involved this year. Use the change in season as an excuse to make some changes. As my grandmother used to say, “There is magic in change.”

Here at GRAWA, we have been undergoing a few changes. Change is inevitable with a new board, but we have also been guided by a Strategic Plan that has just entered the implementation phase. This process was started two years ago, and I am happy to report that the GRAWA Board approved the new Strategic Plan. The ad hoc committee drew from the community and members to arrive at this strategic intent: GRAWA is a robust and influential organization at the forefront of issues affecting women and the legal profession. The committee will now continue the process by executing and managing the actions and targets to achieve the desired goals.

Strategic planning is of vital importance when looking at an organization’s future and relevancy, and some change is a natural part of the process. Any members interested in this next step of the process are encouraged to join the ad hoc committee. As they say, “many hands make for light work,” and this is important work that hopefully will have a lasting impression.

The other change members may have noticed is we re-branded the New Member Reception. To invite more people to join GRAWA, or at least find out what we offer, we are now calling this fall event the GRAWA Open House. It is scheduled for Sept. 25 at Harris Beach. We will be recognizing new members and celebrating members who have reached 10- and 25-year practice anniversaries just like past years. However, we will also have tables featuring our committees with the chair(s) available to answer questions or talk to you about what they do. Existing members are encouraged to attend and see if there is a committee that may be of interest. Also invited are any non-members who want to see what GRAWA has to offer. So, if you are reading this and not a member, but think you want to know more, email to RSVP.

You may be asking yourself, what exactly does GRAWA have to offer for involvement? Well, I will highlight a few in this article — but there is much more that you can learn at the Open House!

The structure of GRAWA dictates that we have standing board committees and then special committees. One of the most important standing committees is the Legislative Committee. This committee works closely with WBASNY to examine bills that have been introduced but also can make suggestions or proposals on legislation. It is one of the best ways to make our small, local voice much louder and powerful. Past issues that GRAWA and WBASNY have taken up are located on WBASNY’s webpage. You can also locate our position statements on the site.

If the larger macro systems interest you, I would also suggest checking out our Judicial Evaluation Committee. Despite changes in the local legal landscapes of judicial candidate evaluations, GRAWA has continued. This committee relies on individuals of all political parties and diverse practice areas to evaluate and screen a judicial candidate and to inform the community about his or her qualifications. This is concluded by our annual Judicial Candidate’s Luncheon where candidates are invited to lunch with the community. This event is planned for Sept. 20, and you can register to attend on our website at Despite the evaluation process coming to an end for this year, the committee continues to work on fine-tuning the process throughout the year.

One of the newer standing committees is the Diversity Committee. This committee has historically organized our MLK Day of Service. This weekend, the committee is partnering with our Program Committee to organize our participation in the Suffragist City Parade on Saturday. It is family-friendly for our members and hopefully inspires us to continue the work for liberty, equality and justice for all humanity. The more the merrier, so check out the website for details. (P.S. It is free for anyone that wants to join us.)

This year I am most excited about the revamping of our special committees. Special committees are unique because they ebb and flow with the interests of our membership. To stay relevant, we respond to what our members need and want. These were partly identified as the most important by our Strategic Plan survey. This year we are offering the Family & Careers Committee, Newly Admitted Women Attorneys Committee (NAWA), Women’s Health and Wellness, and Women’s Connections.

Family and Careers has been around for years. It was there for me as I entered the journey into motherhood, but it is more than that, because family is bigger than that. As one female attorney told me recently, she just did not connect with the other moms in her son’s baby group. But, she was able to relate and find the support she needed with this committee.

NAWA is admittedly my baby, as I founded it when I was just a year or two out of law school. This provides that smaller group of members an opportunity to collaborate with each other and find the programming that meets their unique needs. Everything is a little less scary when you are going with a group of peers that share your thoughts or anxieties, or at least know where all the stress is coming from!

Women’s Health and Wellness is always an active group, and this year is no different. On the calendar they already have The Steinburg Lecture Series CLE on Sept. 28 and a Domestic Violence CLE Program planned for October. They recognize the importance of taking care of yourself and offer programs to raise awareness about health.

Lastly, our Women’s Connections committee is getting a facelift. This committee is focused on mentoring and is in the process of looking at how to foster connections between our members to everyone’s benefit.

So there you have it: some of the changes in GRAWA this year. But I think you can also sense the magic that is coming with the changes! I am excited for all we have to offer members this year. The best way to get someone to attend our Open House, to find out more about all the amazing things going on, is a personal invitation. I wish I could invite each reader to personally attend our Open House. If you need that extra support, email me and I will gladly count you my guest. GRAWA’s amazing board members and committee chairs have made it easy to brag about the positive changes and the potential for change GRAWA could make in your life. Be open to it. See you soon!

Katie Courtney is an attorney advisor in the Social Security Administration’s Rochester Office of Hearings Operations. She is the 36th president of the Greater Rochester Association for Women Attorneys.